Pan-American Trails part 3

The story of a long solo travel tour through Mexico to Central America

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

Children were next in following me. They’d follow me when I walked. They’d swarm around me when I stopped. They wanted to know so many things. They asked so many questions. A little fellow came up to me one day and asked for one of mv pictures.

“What do you want it for?” I wanted to know.

“Teacher said you are a hero,” was the innocent answer.

“Why am I a hero ?”

“ I don’t know!”

I still wonder if the teacher could have answered that last question.

The road to Mazatlan wasn’t so bad, although I had to cross several large rivers. At times I could find my way to the railroad tracks and cross the river over the railroad bridges, but where the tracks weren’t in sight I had to do the best I could and cross the rivers riding my motor.

The toughest one to cross was the Rio Piaxtla, south of Culiacan. There were no boats and no railroad bridges in sight. The river was one of the widest I had seen in that part of the country, and I had anticipated a laborious crossing owing to the large amount of rain that had recently fallen.

Seeing no other means of crossing it, I just looked to where the water seemed to be more shallow and I rode to it. I advanced cautiously with the motor in low. The water reached the cylinders and I still kept going until the carburetor sucked in more water and the motor stopped. I was more than halfway, but ahead of me the water was very deep and the current was swift.

There were people at the river and I hollered for help. Three or four men came to the rescue and together we pushed. Soon the tank was covered by the water, then the handlebars, and the motorcycle was out of sight. The current was getting swifter and we could scarcely proceed. Slowly and carefully, pushing the motorcycle under water, we finally reached the opposite shore.

What an experience! I thought I would never do a thing like that again. I was getting ready to take the motor apart and drain it when one of the fellows stopped me and told me I had to cross two more rivers right then and there. I crossed them in the same way, although they were not so deep, being only branches of the same river.

By the time I got through with all those rivers it was dark and I was pushed to a ranch where I stopped for the night.

Next morning I put my motorcycle apart and I dried the magneto and I had to stop in that ranch for three days before I could get that motorcycle to run again. In the meantime I was fed three meals a day on beans and tortillas. Believe me I was sick of beans and tortillas. Wherever I stopped to eat they used to give me beans. Beans for breakfast, beans for lunch and beans for dinner. Always beans and I hated them.

It’s surprising to see how Mexicans can thrive on such a simple diet. Some of them live there whole life on beans and tortillas with an occasional strip of dried meat or a few crumbs of dried cheese sprinkled on their frijoles (beans to you). As for me I couldn’t swallow such a diet. I had to eat it while I was on the road, but when I reached a town I had to indulge in something more substantial. And did I indulge! Three and four and five meals a day weren’t enough for me any more. I used to buy a half a dozen rolls at night before I went to sleep and eat them in bed and I always felt that I never had enough. It was probably to my advantage that I could eat so much when I had a chance because very often I had to go one or two or even three days with scarcely a bite to eat.

By Jose Porta
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